Foreign Policy Blogs

The Middle East: Hate and Courage

If you have not read Mona Eltahawy’s article, “Why Do They Hate Us?” published in the new edition of Foreign Policy – go do it now.

Maybe the Aztec prophecy that the end of the world is nigh is encouraging people to speak up, maybe enough is simply enough; whatever the reason, this week sees another provocative piece on deep-rooted discrimination (see my post last week on the Holy See). As Ms Eltahawy writes, “there is no sugarcoating it.”

She quickly moves beyond the standard excusatory trope of ‘the Western world is no better – has the US had a female president??’ rolled out by those trying to somehow justify women’s treatment in the Arab world. Fear and acculturation keep propagating what is an inexcusable state of affairs: “Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend” she challenges.

She takes aim at the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a country where women cannot drive and are subject to male control over every aspect of their lives to highlight that whatever little “reforms” King Abdullah kindly hands out are frankly ridiculous. They should not be celebrated – they should be seen for what they are: placative measures designed to stem real progress for women. Even women in Yemen can drive.

Have the revolutions of the Arab Spring helped loosen the noose? Ms Eltahawy looks at the developments in the latter part of her article – and as could be expected what she finds is not particularly inspiring. But you could argue there is a pinpoint of light at the end of the revolutionary tunnel shining through – the social and political space slowly allowing women to shout, protest, contest and organize in a much more public way than before.

And lest we forget…Israel is not mentioned by the author. It should be – ultra-Orthodox Jews are also being criticized for their very similar attitudes (articles here and here).

Change is scary. It’s terrifying. Men of the Middle East: Get used to it.

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Image (via Flickr) available here